In Room 2 at the small school where I teach, groups of young children gather together several times each day to experience the intricacies, satisfactions, and sporadic pains connected with the study of English – and one of these children, the teacher, is 69 years old. Yes, I have come to realize, as the years have passed, that I am as much a child as my adolescent students, and that all of us are like tots taking our first steps into the world of literature. True, I’ve been reading books for 60-some years, but I still often feel, quite honestly, like a lost little boy in an astonishing forest when I find myself inside a new story or poem. I know all the impressive terms and turns-of-phrase that English teachers use in discussing literature, but those are like so much smoke sent out to simply camouflage the fact that I’m not at all sure what any of this writing really means. Sometimes, like a confused kid, I feel like I want someone’s hand to hold as I read a Dickens novel – someone who can show me which of the thousand trails of meaning I should follow. I guess teaching English, for me, is a lot about pretending – making believe I know exactly what this book means and what that poem signifies, when in fact I’m as bewildered as a small boy who has wandered beyond his yard. Luckily, I don’t always pretend. Sometimes the child in me makes a stand for honesty, and I simply say to the students that I have absolutely no clue what Dickens or Shakespeare or Dickinson is saying. I throw up my hands like a lost boy, and then it is that we children of Room 2 – students and senior-citizen teacher together – set off on a cheerful search for the countless truths always concealed under beautifully-written words.
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